I was hoping someone could help me with understanding the Fireborn combat mechanics, or optionally has a better way to explain and implement it in a less confusing way.

The way the system is explained, using the dynamic D6 system, it has 4 pools of d6's that you can exchange between pools to focus on actions, lowering the dice in others.

Each fight has a chain of attacks or moves you can take, and in order to succeed the whole chain you need to have enough net successes over your opponent (as it's always opposed).

This seems okay (?), but it seems like success is very hard to accomplish and the resource of Karma (karma bid) is making it a bit metagamey and as limited resource not the ideal option each and every attack you make. Martial art chains seem impossible!?

To clarify, this is how I understand combat works;

In a basic combat example, if you have Fire 4, it means you can use 4 actions in a chain for your attack.

Say we have a knife in hand and stab twice, it is:

Ready- knife - ready - knife

(small weapons like fists or knives require 1 ready action)

So we can do 2 attacks in 1 round.

But as attacks are always opposed checks, the opponent gets to defend with water, let's say 4, so needs to dodge 2 attacks, and can launch a counter.

Dodge - Dodge - Ready - Punch

For each action in line to succeed you need a success for each action in the chain, so if you want to complete the entire chain you need 4 net successes over the opponent.

With stance changes you shift dice from other stats to your pool for extra dice, lowering the others to the limit of your skill, so if we got melee 4, we could add 4 extra dice at the cost of other abilities.

But even with this in mind, each die has a 50/50 chance for success and it's opposed by an opponent who can shift dice to defense the same way you can. Therefore, it seems the chances that you get 4 successes over your opponent is rather unlikely, and you need at least 2 successes to even land a hit (the first net success is for a ready action).

But this is just a regular attack chain, using martial arts sequences, they require special sequences which need to have the entire chain be completed for a special payoff.

But as getting enough successes to complete chains is so difficult and low chances... it seems very unlikely you can ever achieve those.

Not to mention as attacker you need 2 net success, where the defender does not get hit even if you manage to have equal success as the opponent. (actually 1 less success to your opponent would not cause damage either)

So defenders are much more favored over any attack, and karma seems to be the one thing that can beat the odds, and even that in a limited fashion. It does not seem like it makes any sense.

Of course you then have karma bids, which allows purchase of extra success and is opposed to the opponent as a secret bid. Karma is however also used for powers and is a limited resource, so it's not really what you wish to spend each round. On top of it, karma bids are a bit metagamey and take the combat to a halt, so seemingly does not seem like something you want to happen every attack.

Am I reading into this wrong somehow?

A better-explained combat example could be helpful; as others mentioned online, the rule system is supposedly very fast and fluid. To me, it appears anything but.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! I've created a new tag for you, because you're the first person asking about this game. Always good to see questions for fresh games. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 10:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to crosspost your question on the official forum. (It looks a little slow—it seems there's been no activity since March—, but it's worth a shot.) Also, this RPGNet thread may also help you or help someone answer your question. (I'm amused that Wikipedia says that in 2009 Fireborn was cancelled, yet FFG started publishing novels based on the setting… in 2011. Dayum, the gaming industry is weird.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ (If you don't already have it, you may also be interested in the game's errata that's available through this blog post. Really, I know nothing about the game, but from a cursory glance it seems the "FB Lost Lore Errata" document is fairly important.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 14:02

1 Answer 1


Personally, I always found Fireborn's fighting system to favor the attacker. An attacker has the option to make multiple attacks in a row if they vary their weapons - Knife+Left Hook+Right Kick+Left Kick, for example. While they try to scare you into not just going full bore haymaker because of how much it takes to make the final actions take place, going defense means many wasted rounds waiting for a good enough roll to go above the attacker's by at least three success so you can get past defense and ready to reprisal. A defender really only keeps the advantage when the attacker needs to move into an attack position because it makes them bleed successes before opposition. Beyond that, they only have to roll more successes if you're toe to toe and if you lose, you've blown your stance changes on that failed defense in anticipation.

They make a couple of offhanded comments saying that it's hard to hit and that defenders get an advantage, but mechanically it still comes down to "highest roll wins". Playing a solely defense/counter game requires you to get rather high dice rolls to get any modicum of success beyond stalemate. Even then, one failed defense leads to the slippery slope of wound penalties and disadvantage if not properly managed.


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